04/05/2002 12:00AM

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Aidan O'Brien's European Derby prospect Ballingarry will start the year in the Group 2 Prix Noailles at Longchamp on Sunday afternoon. The winner of the 1 1/4-mile Group 1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud by a length over Castle Gandolfo last November, Ballingarry will face five opponents, all of them trained in France, including Stydahar, unbeaten in two starts. . . . Fort Erie Racetrack's average purse distribution for its 2002 meeting, which opens April 27, is projected to be $185,000, with claiming races under $20,000 increasing by 8 percent and higher-level claiming and allowance races increasing by 12 percent. A track press release credited revenue from the track's slot machines and income from simulcasting for the increases at its 117-day meet.